The dance in Dane
EDWARDS – Dane Leary glides gracefully across the room, revealing a single bejeweled ballet slipper and true to the fairy tale, a dozen young women flock to the handsome prince’s side and swoon in hopes that the shoe will fit.While his peers have spent the last four years grabbing their ski helmets, shoulder pads, running shoes and hockey sticks as the final bell rang, Leary grabbed his tights and toe shoes.Today is no different, as the tall, aptly built red-head finds himself in a familiar setting. In the lofty Edwards studio, the Vail Valley Youth Ballet Company dancers rehearse for their performance of “All You Need is Love” Wednesday and Thursday at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek, in which Leary plays prince charming in the company’s rendition of “Cinderella.”
It’s a role Leary, who turns 18 this month, knows well. As the only male dancer in the company, he has the prince part down pat. It’s never a mystery who will be cast opposite the leading lady. In fact, “It’s a little bit of a let down hearing you got the lead,” Leary says. Of course, the benefits outweigh any negatives. “I get to dance with every single one of these girls, so I get a lot more experience when it comes to partnering,” he says.His skills were put to the challenge last week in Denver, when Leary and fellow company dancer Adrienne Powell won the first-place Diamond Trophy for partnering at the Spotlight Dance Competition. His experience with opposite sex on stage seems to have transferred off stage, as well. His advice?”When in doubt, keep your mouth shut,” Leary says.
The girls giggle, agreeing.”It’s funny to hear what he’s learned about girls,” says Anne Powell, who has been instructing Leary since he was 7. “He has the same philosophy when it comes to partnering. The girls always say, ‘Dane do this. Dane do that. Dane lift me up higher. He so gallantly tries to make it work for them. He’s a very caring and considerate guy. He’s always been that way and he’s always liked the girls.”And the girls like him. “They often ask me to carry them down the street,” he says. And he does it.
Being a male dancer has its benefits outside of the Vail academy, too. When Leary auditioned at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he will attend in the fall, he was one of nine males out of 60 dancers. “I have very good odds,” he says. Still, he will face more competition than he is used to, something that he looks forward to, he says.Other sports, such as skiing, appeal to Leary but nothing has compared to his passion for dancing. While living in Denmark last year as a high-school foreign exchange student, Leary did not have the opportunity to dance, and the absence made his heart grow fonder.”I realized that if I don’t do it for the rest of my life, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life,” he says. “I’ll be happy doing it for the rest of my life. I love the challenges it presents: The complexity of coordinating yourself with the music and the movements and trying to make it an art.”Leary currently dances six days a week, but understands the importance of balance. In addition to classical dance, he will also study political science at the University of Utah, which, he adds, is a mere 30 minutes from the slopes. “Living here my entire life, it’s kind of hard to go a year without skiing.”
He also loves to travel. Eventually he hopes to build a career in foreign relations. But first, he says, “I’d really like to see myself touring the world with different companies.”But what will the girls do without their prince?”I’ll fly home for the performances,” Leary says blushing. “I have all the parts memorized.”
Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached 748-2939 or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado